The son of the prime minister who led the Soviet Union during the Cold War and helped end the Cuban Missile Crisis delivered a cautionary lesson in history and politics Saturday in the south Las Vegas Valley.
Dr. Sergei Khrushchev, the 82-year-old son of Nikita Khrushchev, delivered a lecture at the National Atomic Testing Museum about the complex relationship between the U.S. and Russia. The lecture, which explored the countries’ entanglement in the Cold War and current geopolitical issues between the nations, fell during the 55th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
About 100 people crowded into an auditorium at the museum, straining to listen to the soft-spoken Khrushchev tell his story through a thick Russian accent.
Diane Lombardi, 58, attended the lecture, titled “USA and Russia in the Past and Future,” because she’s concerned about rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia.
“I’d just like to be more informed. I think we had a nice time being ‘free’ of this worry,” Lombardi said. “The U.S.A. and Russia seemed to be on a better path from the ‘80s and ‘90s, and now it just seems to be deteriorating and it scares me tremendously.”
Lombardi’s husband had heard Khrushchev speak in documentaries and was more interested in the history lesson.
“Unlike my wife, I’m not frightened at all about deteriorating relationships,” said Matt Lombardi, 64, a self-proclaimed history buff.
“History is a continuity for what’s happening now, and it will also help project what will happen in the future,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything to worry about in my lifetime, but it’d be nice to have a few things resolved that have not been resolved since I was an elementary school kid.
“North Korea for instance …We have more danger from North Korea,” Lombardi said. “Russians are a lot more rational, and not tied to a personality anymore. Stalin was a personality. [Nikita] Khrushchev, less so, I think.”
The younger Khrushchev, who was a senior fellow at Brown University from 1996 to 2012 and who has authored several books about his father, the Cold War and Russian economics, emphasized before his lecture that he sees no parallels between the Cuban Missile Crisis and the recent threats of nuclear warfare from North Korea.
“It is not the level of the president of the United States just to make him main object, the dictator of such small country,” Khrushchev said. “It’s a domestic Korean affair. It is not the crisis of the Cold War and the Khrushchev-Kennedy negotiations.”
He said North Korea, even if theoretically capable of reaching the United States with a missile, would be unwise to do so because the U.S. would “hail missiles and bombs” and destroy the country.
“[President Trump] is too much involved with this small conflict. … You have to choose your priorities,” Khrushchev said. “And now, he’s reacting to just anybody who is sending him on the Twitter.”
At the close of his speech, Khrushchev said he believes it’s unlikely that Russians were involved in the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and criticized U.S. leaders for continuing to investigate allegations of collusion.
“Now, it is not a good time for both countries because we’re accusing Russia in some craziness,” he said.
Khrushchev acknowledged that, like all other countries, Russia is interested in American elections and would like to try to influence them. But, he said, the Russians are incapable of doing so.
“I don’t know one person who was influenced by Russia or any other propaganda,” he said. “You cannot blame other countries that they’re behaving in their own interest. You can not try to punish them, but try to negotiate with them.”
As for U.S.-Russia relations in the future, Khrushchev is hopeful.
“I hope that some wise president … will come and will try to bring together all they did like President Eisenhower did, one of the wisest presidents of the U.S.,” he said.
“We cannot be world policemen. We cannot punish everybody whom we don’t like. If we want to be a superpower, an only power, we have to learn how to negotiate.”
Contact Kimber Laux at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @lauxkimber on Twitter.